Even in the age of PayPal, Square and Bitcoin, many people pull out a green piece of paper to pay for their morning coffee without giving the transaction much thought.
Somebody, though, had to get that piece of paper to your neighborhood ATM, and you had to spend some gasoline (or shoe leather) to get it out. Cash also carries a risk of theft, and it allows some unscrupulous people to evade taxes.
Researchers from Tufts University came up with a big number. They say that based on “highly conservative assumptions,” the cost of cash in the U.S. amounts to $200 billion a year.
Households pay about $8 billion in ATM fees and lose $500 million a year to theft, but the study puts their total cost much higher, at $43 billion. Most of that comes from assigning a value to the time that people spend going to ATMs or check-cashing stores. The study estimates that tax evasion amounts to $100 billion a year.